Young resident talks about her journey with leukemia

The 10-year-old told the township committee about what it was like for her to receive treatment for leukemia and why it's important for the community to raise awareness about childhood cancer.

Ten-year-old Ellie Matz presents the beads she obtained during various stages of her acute lymphocytic leukemia treatment. White beads represent each chemotherapy treatment, rainbow is for specialist visits, black is for the needles stuck in her, blue is for clinic visits and the colorful ones represent milestones completed. (Krystal Nurse/The Sun).

Each year, the township recognizes September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This year, prior to the start of the month, a resident shared her journey with cancer during the Aug. 5 Harrison Township Committee meeting.

When she was 5 years old, Ellie Matz was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia. Matz said the diagnosis was made after she “felt sick for six weeks and it wouldn’t get better.” She lost a significant amount of energy, her stomach gave her pains and she didn’t sleep much due to fevers.

My doctor said he was going to try to figure out why I’ve been so sick,” Matz said. “I had blood tests, x-rays in my elbow and chest, and an ultrasound on my stomach. I thought it would be over and I could go right home after that.

She was later given her diagnosis and went on to receive treatment at CHOP, where she went through eight months of intense chemotherapy. During that time, Matz said she lost her hair and would “always feel sick.”

Following the eight months, Matz said she went into long-term maintenance for roughly two years where she would, on some days, take just over a dozen pills.

In March of 2017, Matz finished her treatment for the cancer and has been seen by an oncologist since then.

One thing that made my childhood cancer bearable was the incredible support from my community,” she said. “My teachers, administrators, classmates and friends have been by my side since the very beginning. They’re cheering my family on through every challenge we’ve faced.

She added that childhood cancer deserves more funding for research so scientists can discover “less toxic” treatments.

Matz also brought a string of glass beads with her to the committee meeting that signify various events, stages or memories from her journey with cancer and following it.

White beads, she said, represent each time she received chemotherapy, rainbow represents specialist visits, black represents the number of needles she was stuck with, blue represents clinic visits and the bigger colorful beads represent goals she achieved, such as passing a swim test, learning to ride a bike, etc.

We’ve all been touched by cancer somehow, and when it’s a child, it’s especially overwhelming for a parent to deal with something like this,” Mayor Louis Manzo said.

Organizer of the awareness month, Kelly Redkoles, added a blood drive is scheduled at the American Legion on Sept. 21 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There, she hopes to also have a bone marrow registration table.

Community-based activities, such as blood drives and bone marrow registration drives, are very important since so many children have blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants from cancer,” Matz said. 

In other news:

  • The township is working with the Twelve Oaks HOA to resolve erosion and drainage issues after a homeowner’s extension of a drain caused issues to other properties.
  • The third-quarter tax payment due date was extended to Aug. 26. Late payments will have the Aug. 1 interest rate instead of Sept. 1.
  • Omni Recycling, of Pitman, was approved to be the township’s new recycler.
  • Supervisor of Public Works Dennis Chambers said the township will look into replacing its “Welcome to Harrison Township” signs around town, but no timeline or new designs were brought up.
  • Resolutions were passed to allow the township to lease one school bus, each, to Harrison Township and Clearview Regional school districts for $1.
  • Residents informed the township about “no parking” signs up on both sides of streets in the Devonshire subdivision, creating confusion and frustration. The township is looking to send an engineer out to see how the problem can be remedied.
  • Manzo said the township could look into partnering with ShopRite to get more spots for the company to collect plastic bags. ShopRite ships the plastic bags out of the area where they’re made into new plastic bags. The township does not allow for plastic bags in its recycling carts.

The next township meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building (114 Bridgeton Pike).